Major exercise underway in Baltic states

United States Army (press release)
July 26 2004

Major exercise underway in Baltic states
By Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey S. Mullett

ALUKSNE, Latvia (Army News Service, July 26, 2004) — U.S. Soldiers
launched an international military exercise July 20 at an army base
in Eastern Latvia.

The RESCUER / MEDCEUR exercise will continue until the end of July in
Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, three of NATO’s newest members.

`This is a U.S. European Command effort to familiarize partner
nations with multinational operations,’ said Lt. Col. Jon Dahms, the
exercise spokesman. `The three Baltic nations are hosting the
exercise, which is directed by U.S. Army Europe.

This exercise marks the first major military training event for the
Baltic States since becoming part of NATO in March, officials said.
The three nations also recently became part of the European Union,
said Col. Michael McDaniel, a Michigan National Guard officer who
leads the multi-national task force.

Troops from Germany, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia,
Bulgaria, Armenia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Azerbajan will join
U.S. Soldiers in the 15-day exercise.

Soldiers from the 7th Army Reserve Command, headquartered in
Schwetzingen, Germany, and five other Army Reserve units are
supporting the exercise, officials said.

`This is a complex operation with a lot of moving parts,’ McDaniel
said in his address during the opening ceremony July 20.

>From the task force headquarters near Aluksne, the computer-driven
scenario will challenge the multi-national staff to react to manmade

The exercise then leaps into real world training, with mass casualty
exercises in Lithuania and a diving operation in Estonia. Polish and
Estonian soldiers will also conduct a helicopter search and rescue
exercise near Tapa, Estonia.

In addition, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will also work with
Lithuanian Soldiers to renovate an orphanage in Klapeida and build a
trestle bridge to allow yearlong access for Klapeida’s rural
residents to cross a flood plain. U.S. Army Reserve troops from the
368th Engineer Battalion in New Hampshire are helping the Lithuanians
install new windows in the orphanage and renovate the dining hall.

The 330th Combat Support Hospital from Tennessee is also in Klapeida
working with medical personnel from 11 other nations respond to mass
casualty events as part of the exercise.

Capt. Ilmars Lesinskis, commander of the Latvian Navy, spoke to the
troops at the ceremony about the importance of training together.

`The common job that is based on a mutual understanding, respect and
trust significantly increases our ability to react to different
crisis situations in the future,’ Lesinskis said.

Behind him the flags of the 18 participating countries, plus the NATO
banner, caught the warm breeze. Rows of international troops stood
side-by-side Tuesday morning, as the Latvian Army band performed
ceremonial music and the national anthems of both the U.S. and

The base, about 120 miles east of Riga, is situated just outside the
town of Aluksne and is home to the Lativan Mobile Infantry Battalion.
Officials flew in from Riga by helicopter.

Dignitaries from the Latvian government attended, as did U.S. Embassy
officials and military attaches from Russia and China.

Just 15 years ago, an exercise like this would have been virtually
impossible, McDaniel said.

`Countries once considered adversaries now work as allies,’ McDaniel
said. `Our great nations are now bound together in a global effort
against terrorism.’